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corporate dominance | genetic engineering

GE Crops: the final nail in our collective coffin

The only reasons for the existence of GE crops are two: (A) to maximize profits for transnational corporations like Monsanto, Cargill and ADM - at the expense of our planet's well-being, its wildlife and its people; and (B), to exert complete control over our food supplies. These companies are as merciless as America's war contractors and Big Pharma industries.
With financial aid and support from governments, absolutely nothing will be allowed to get in Big Ag's way. Germany's Third Reich would be very proud of them.

To summarize the following:
(1) the dominance of transnational corporations
(2) the responsibilities of scientists
(3) political pressure exerted on scientists
(4) secrets of the living cell
(5) GM crop myths
(6) who benefits from GM crops?
(7) dangers of GM foods
(8) Colony Collapse Disorder
(9) a scientific report submitted to the EPA

(1) From Stephen Lendman, Hostile Takeover: The Corporate Control of Society and Human Life - April 25, 2006.

* Giant transnational corporations today have become so dominant they now control our lives and the world, and they exploit both fully and ruthlessly. While they claim to be serving us and bringing us the fruits of the so-called "free market," in fact, they just use us for their gain. They've deceived us and highjacked the government to serve them as subservient proxies in their unending pursuit to dominate the world's markets, resources, cheap labor abroad and our own right here.

* NAFTA, and what was to follow, were and are not intended to create jobs and raise living standards in the participating countries, despite all the hype saying they would and will. These agreements are solely plans to benefit big corporations, legally allowing them the right to dominate world markets, override national sovereignty to do it, and exploit people everywhere for their gain. Bottom line - these "agreements" mean big corporations win and people everywhere lose.

(2) From Zbignew Zingh, The Suits and Lab Coats Behind the Front Lines - October 29th, 2007.

* They (engineers, medical researchers and scientists) have a special responsibility for their work because what they do can affect especially large numbers of people in particularly horrific ways. Those who design nuclear, chemical or thermobaric weapons; those who weaponize diseases; those who conduct genetic engineering for profit; and those who develop machines for the remote delivery of war, are not mere employees, not just intellectual workers - they are accessories to some of humanity's most horrific acts of criminality.

* Today, nearly all "science" is conducted in only three environments: the university, the corporate or the government research laboratory. In all three, with few exceptions, directly or indirectly, the funding for the research comes from or serves the interests of the military, big business or homeland security. And because he who pays the piper calls the tune, directly or indirectly, the scientific research that makes dreams real also makes nightmares real.

* Should scientists and engineers be held to account for the dire results of their work? Absolutely. The research community thinks of itself as working within the insular and mythical cocoon of "pure science." But no scientist, no engineer, no computer programmer, no technician has the right to his or her comfortable isolation simply because he or she would rather not think about how his or her work will be used.

There is no excuse for not thinking. ...you share the responsibility for the crimes that others commit with the technology that you helped to create.

From David Edwards, author of 'Burning All Illusions' (1996) and 'The Compassionate Revolution: Radical Politics and Buddhism' (1998).

"We build our lives on certain beliefs, then spend much of our time protecting ourselves from conflicting facts, experiences, and ideas. This self-deception is made easier for us by our society's cult of specialization, whereby people are convinced that they're primarily journalists or arms salespeople or oil executives. Our jobs define our lives, and our job in the vast majority of cases is to make money for business. Any concern that goes beyond our profession is rejected as having 'nothing to do with me' or being 'outside my field.' This attitude is drilled into us all the way through school and into our career. We see being professional and talented and knowledgeable as a matter of being specialized. And the first thing you lose when you become specialized is your humanity."

(3) From AP News, Survey shows hundreds of EPA scientists complain about political pressure - April 23, 2008.
 link to www.rawstory.com

"Hundreds of Environmental Protection Agency scientists say they have been pressured by superiors to skew their findings, according to a survey released Wednesday by an advocacy group.

The Union of Concerned Scientists said more than half of the nearly 1,600 EPA staff scientists who responded online to a detailed questionnaire reported they had experienced incidents of political interference in their work.

The survey covered employees at EPA headquarters, in each of the agency's 10 regions around the country and at more than a dozen research laboratories. The highest number of complaints about political interference came from scientists who are directly involved in writing regulations and those who conduct risk assessments such as determining a chemical cancer risk for humans.

Nearly 400 scientists said they had witnessed EPA officials misrepresenting scientific findings, 284 said they had seen the "selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome" and 224 scientists said they had been directed to "inappropriately exclude or alter technical information" in an EPA document.

Nearly 200 of the respondents said they had been in situations where they or their colleagues actively objected to or resigned from projects "because of pressure to change scientific findings.'"

(4) From Barry Commoner, Unraveling the DNA Myth: The Spurious Foundation of Genetic Engineering, Harper's Magazine - February 2002.

"The experimental data, shorn of dogmatic theories, points to the irreducibility of the living cell, the inherent complexity of which suggests that any artificially altered genetic system, given the magnitude of our ignorance, must sooner or later give rise to unintended, potentially disastrous, consequences. We must be willing to recognize how little we truly understand about the secrets of the cell, the fundamental unit of life."

(5) From Geoffrey Lean, Exposed: The Great GM Crops Myth - April 20, 2008.

"Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis."

The following are excerpts from comments made to the above article:

* Genetic engineering (GE) and conventional breeding are worlds apart. Breeding does not manipulate genes; it involves crossing of selected parents of the same or closely related species. In contrast, GE involves extracting selected genes from one organism (e.g. animals, plants, insects, bacteria) and/or viruses, or synthesising copies, and artificially inserting them into another organism (e.g. food crops). The bt-toxin is produced in ALL cells ALL the time -- endangering non-target insects feeding on the pollen (bees, butterflies) and also the millions of microorganisms living in the soil (since the bt-toxin is also exuded from the roots), wheras in natural insect-repellents, the plant only produces the poison when the pest is actually attacking the plant.

* Although a gene can be cut out precisely from the DNA of an organism, its insertion into the DNA of another organism is ENTIRELY RANDOM. This results in the DISRUPTION of the ORDER of the genes on the chromosome and may result in random and unexpected changes in the functioning of the cells.

* We rely almost entirely on the testing carried out by the GE biotechnology companies that have spent billions of dollars developing the food and intend to make a profit selling it to us. There are serious doubts about the adequacy of the testing and the validity of the conclusions drawn from the results.

* Farmers growing GE crops have to sign binding contracts with the biotechnology producers. These commit them to using only the herbicides produced by that company and prohibit them from the traditional practice of saving seed for the next season. Most third world farmers certainly will not benefit.

* Insects, birds and the wind carry genetically altered pollen and seeds into neighbouring fields and far beyond. Cross-pollination occurs between GE crops and non-GE crops and their wild relatives. In this way resistance to weed killer, for example, might be transmitted to weeds making them more difficult to control. There is also evidence that crops engineered to produce their own insecticide can kill beneficial insects.

* The money for scientific research on GE here and overseas comes from either the biotechnology companies or the government. Both are committed to the promises of biotechnology. This means that even when scientists have concerns about the safety or commercial application of the technology, it is often hard for them to risk their careers by being openly critical.

* We must not commit ourselves to a dubious technology that cannot be reversed.

(6) From Craig Mackintosh, Who Benefits from GM Crops? - April 19, 2007.

"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food, our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." Phil Angell, Director of Corporate Communications, Monsanto, New York Times - Oct. 25, 1998.

* The 2006 Food and Agriculture Organization report on global food security recognizes that there are more hungry people in developing countries today - 820 million - than there were in 1996. This is ten years down the road from the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, which promised to reduce the number of undernourished people by half by 2015. Far from decreasing, the number of hungry people in the world is increasing at a rate of four million per year. Agricultural investments are crucial in changing this situation, and we cannot afford to misuse scarce financial resources in implementing 'false solutions'.

From Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, Monsanto's Harvest of Fear, Vanity Fair - May 2008.
 link to www.vanityfair.com

* Monsanto developed G.M. seeds that would resist its own herbicide, Roundup, offering farmers a convenient way to spray fields with weed killer without affecting crops. Monsanto then patented the seeds. For nearly all of its history the United States Patent and Trademark Office had refused to grant patents on seeds, viewing them as life-forms with too many variables to be patented. "It's not like describing a widget," says Joseph Mendelson III, the legal director of the Center for Food Safety, which has tracked Monsanto's activities in rural America for years.

Indeed not. But in 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court, in a five-to-four decision, turned seeds into widgets, laying the groundwork for a handful of corporations to begin taking control of the world's food supply.

* Farmers who buy Monsanto's patented Roundup Ready seeds are required to sign an agreement promising not to save the seed produced after each harvest for re-planting, or to sell the seed to other farmers. This means that farmers must buy new seed every year. Those increased sales, coupled with ballooning sales of its Roundup weed killer, have been a bonanza for Monsanto.

This radical departure from age-old practice has created turmoil in farm country. Some farmers don't fully understand that they aren't supposed to save Monsanto's seeds for next year's planting. Others do, but ignore the stipulation rather than throw away a perfectly usable product. Still others say that they don't use Monsanto's genetically modified seeds, but seeds have been blown into their fields by wind or deposited by birds. It's certainly easy for G.M. seeds to get mixed in with traditional varieties when seeds are cleaned by commercial dealers for re-planting. The seeds look identical; only a laboratory analysis can show the difference. Even if a farmer doesn't buy G.M. seeds and doesn't want them on his land, it's a safe bet he'll get a visit from Monsanto's seed police if crops grown from G.M. seeds are discovered in his fields.

* (Monsanto) now profoundly influences - and one day may virtually control - what we put on our tables. For most of its history Monsanto was a chemical giant, producing some of the most toxic substances ever created (PCBs, Agent Orange, dioxin), residues from which have left us with some of the most polluted sites on earth (it's potentially responsible for more than 50 EPA Superfund sites). Yet in a little more than a decade, the company has sought to shed its polluted past and morph into something much different and more far-reaching - an "agricultural company" dedicated to making the world "a better place for future generations."

* Monsanto's genetically modified seeds have transformed the company and are radically altering global agriculture. So far, the company has produced G.M. seeds for soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton. Many more products have been developed or are in the pipeline, including seeds for sugar beets and alfalfa. The company is also seeking to extend its reach into milk production by marketing an artificial growth hormone for cows that increases their output, and it is taking aggressive steps to put those who don't want to use growth hormone at a commercial disadvantage.

* In Iraq, the groundwork has been laid to protect the patents of Monsanto and other G.M.-seed companies. One of L. Paul Bremer's last acts as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority was an order stipulating that "farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties." Monsanto has said that it has no interest in doing business in Iraq, but should the company change its mind, the American-style law is in place.

(7) In the book: Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey M. Smith, you can find meticulously documented evidence that leaves no doubt that GM food should never have been approved.

* The biotech industry claims that the FDA has thoroughly evaluated GM foods and found them safe. This is untrue. Internal FDA documents made public from a lawsuit, reveal that agency scientists warned that GM foods might create toxins, allergies, nutritional problems, and new diseases that might be difficult to identify.

* Although they urged their superiors to require long-term tests on each GM variety prior to approval, the political appointees at the agency, including a former attorney for Monsanto, ignored the scientists. Official policy claims that the foods are no different and do NOT require safety testing.

* How could the government approve dangerous foods? A close examination reveals that industry manipulation and political collusion - not sound science - was the driving force.

* The World Health Organization, the British and American Medical Associations, and several other groups have expressed concern that if the "antibiotic resistant marker genes" used in GM foods got transferred to bacteria, it could create super-diseases that are immune to antibiotics.

* One of the most dangerous aspects of genetic engineering is the closed thinking and consistent effort to silence those with contrary evidence or concerns. Just before stepping down from office, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman admitted the following: "What I saw generically on the pro-biotech side was the attitude that the technology was good, and that it was almost immoral to say that it wasn't good, because it was going to solve the problems of the human race and feed the hungry and clothe the naked... And there was a lot of money that had been invested in this, and if you're against it, you're Luddites, you're stupid. That, frankly, was the side our government was on ...you felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to present an open-minded view.

(8) From Craig Mackintosh, Colony Collapse Disorder - a Moment for Reflection? - April 13, 2007.
 link to www.celsias.com

* Pouring poison on our food is a very simplistic way of dealing with our problems, and ignores the root causes. New genetically modified crops, designed to be immune to certain pesticides and herbicides, have resulted in the increased usage of these chemicals. Pesticides, particularly Bayer's imidacloprid, a nicotine-based product marketed under the names Admire, Provado, Merit, Marathon and Gaucho, have been concretely implicated in the destruction of bee populations before.

* Creating plants with built-in pesticides will kill insects. Bees, by the way, are insects. Additionally, it is known that inserted genes can combine in host DNA molecules to create unexpected proteins - that can be toxic or allergenic. It is impossible to know all the implications of how pollen from such plants will interact with the organisms they are in contact with.

* ...organisms in natural systems are ever changing and adjusting. This makes 'bio-engineering', in the best-case scenario, a futile exercise and an enormous misallocation of human and environmental resources, and, in the worse case scenario, an ecological catastrophe with no chance for a product recall.

From Brit Amos, Death of the Bees: GMO Crops and the Decline of Bee Colonies in North America - March 25, 2008.
 link to www.globalresearch.ca

* The proof is obvious that one of the major reasons of the bees' decline is by the ingestion of GMO proteins.

(9) Excerpts from: Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, published May 21, 2007. Submitted to the EPA by author Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director, Institute for Responsible Technology on May 22, 2007.
 link to www.seedsofdeception.com

* Ignoring safeguards in order to promote the biotech industry was particularly evident at the FDA in the early 1990s, when they created a new position for Michael Taylor, Monsanto's former attorney and later their vice president. Mr Taylor was in charge of crafting the FDA's GMO policy. Documents now public from a lawsuit reveal that the consensus among FDA scientists was that GM foods might promote allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. They had urged superiors to require long-term safety studies. These warnings were ignored, even denied, and the FDA has no required safety testing.

* Revoke the now disproved assumptions that Bt-toxin is benign, destroyed during digestion, and non-active in humans and mammals. One maddening feature of GM crop regulations is that assumptions, not data, lay at its soft core. In the case of Bt crops, for example, the agency assumed that Bt toxin, used by organic farmers, had a history of safe use and could therefore be handled and consumed in GM crops without extensive safety testing. This assumption ignored the fact that: The Bt-toxin in crops is often thousands of times more concentrated than the spray version. [2.] I-N Bremmer, and K-H Leist, Disodium-N-acetyl-L-glufosinate; AE F099730 - Hazard evaluation of Lglufosinate produced intestinally from N-acetyl-L-glufosinate (Frankfurt: Hoechst Schering AgrEvo GmbH, Safety Evaluation, 1997), unpublished; (see FAO publication on www.fao.org/ag/agp/agpp/pesticid/jmpr/Download/98/glufosi3.pdf).

* EPA assumptions fail to address how natural or man-made substances might interact with the plant produced toxin and impact health. University of Wisconsin scientists, for example, accidentally discovered that Bt-toxin becomes more deadly to insects when mixed with very small amounts of a naturally occurring antibiotic (zwittermicin A-a byproduct of bacteria). [48.] George Gallepp , "Scientists Find Compound that Makes Bt Pesticide More Effective," College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin, May 21, 2001,  http://www.cals.wisc.edu/media/news/05_01/zwitter_Bt.html Tests have not been conducted to determine if the enhanced toxicity is also more dangerous to animals or humans.

* Thorough safety assessments should take into consideration the interactions between the toxin and compounds produced within the plant. There up to 5000 natural products found in a single plant. Moreover, GM crops undergo massive collateral damage in the GM transformation process, which can change the levels of these compounds or introduce new ones. Mutations usually occur near the insertion site. [49.] J. R. Latham, et al., "The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation," The Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, 2006, Article ID 25376: 1-7; see also John Innes Centre, "Study G02002-Methods for the analysis of GM wheat and barley seed for unexpected consequences of the transgene insertion," September 2001 to January 2005.

Insertions commonly end up disrupting known gene sequences. [50.] J. R. Latham, et al., "The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation," The Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, 2006, Article ID 25376: 1-7; see also John Innes Centre, "Study G02002-Methods for the analysis of GM wheat and barley seed for unexpected consequences of the transgene insertion," September 2001 to January 2005.

* Bt toxin is excreted from GM crop roots and binds with clay in the soil, remaining stable for months or years. Further, the Bt producing gene might be picked up and expressed by the DNA of soil bacteria, causing an unaccounted for source of continuous Bt production in the environment.

* Investigate whether GM crops may play a contributory role in Colony Collapse Disorder among bees, and look closely at the insecticides used in seed dressing, especially those highly concentrated varieties designed for refuge areas in Bt crop fields.

The Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a growing catastrophe that must be mentioned here. Is it due primarily to GM crops? Unlikely. Regions where the disorder is found include those with very few GM acres planted. But GM crops theoretically could lead to such an unpredicted nightmare. In fact, they may be contributing to CCD. Preliminary studies have already demonstrated that bees' immune systems were weakened after pollinating certain GM fields and that transgenes from Liberty Link corn transferred into the gut microorganisms within the bees.

One major candidate for causing CCD is neonicotinoid insecticides used in seed dressing. The widespread application of the neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees at very low concentrations. French beekeepers noticed that imidacloprid affected the bee's orientation and ability to return to the hive. Italian scientists found that sub lethal doses of imidacloprid in laboratory and field experiment decreased flight activity and olfactory discrimination, and olfactory learning performance was impaired.

It is noteworthy that companies sell seeds specifically designed for Bt refuge areas with a five-fold concentration of the time-released neonicotinoid insecticides. This might certainly impact bee health and may explain the particularly high rate of bee losses in the U.S. It is also important to note that the bee disorder is not being reported much among organic beekeepers, supporting the notion that agricultural chemicals and GM crops may be contributors.

* Replace studies by biotech companies with rigorous independent research.

A close examination of the design and reporting of safety assessment funded by biotech companies has revealed clear methods used to avoid finding problems. I refer you to the 43 pages of part 3 in my book Genetic Roulette, detailing how these corporations have got bad science down to a science.

If your answer to any of these recommendations is that it is "Not my job," than this is a problem that should be investigated above all others. The strange malady of passing on the responsibility to others has befallen too many regulatory agencies in regards to GMOs. And when it is traced back to see who is ultimately providing assurances, it often turns out to be the biotech companies offering assumptions that promote profits.